Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Democrats have given the GOP a wonderful opportunity to return early from their self-inflicted trip to the woodshed. It is far from certain that the GOP won't blow it this time... just as they've done so many times before.

With that in mind, here is some (as usual) unsolicited advice for the Republicans if they gain control of one or both Houses of Congress in next month's elections...

* First and most important, you're not Sally Field, the voters do not like you per se, so do NOT take this as voter support for the GOP. They weren't voting for you as much as they were taking out on the Democrats their frustrations with the economy. You don't have a mandate to institute conservative policies as much as you have a mandate to oppose the liberals. There is a difference and it is important to remember that. Bush failed to recognize in 2000 and 2008 that voters picked him less than they voted against Gore and Kerry and Obama failed - or ignored - the fact that voters weren't voting for him to push through liberal policies as much as they were expressing dissatisfaction with both Bush and the incompetent and ineffective campaign McCain was running... and Bush and Obama have both paid the price.

* Remember that most of you, and especially those of you coming from purplish districts, owe your victory to the mushy middle. Without their votes, you would not have won. Ignore them at your peril. Don't make the same mistake as the Democrats, who found - to their chagrin - that pushing a liberal agenda does not endear one to the plurality of voters who pride themselves on not being on one side or the other of the ideological aisle. Focus on the issues that most voters care about, not just the voters who make themselves heard the loudest.

* Do not worry about Obama and the surviving Democrats labeling you as 'the Party of No'. Remember, you won because the voters did not approve of what Obama was doing and is trying to do... and they're more likely to get upset with you if you go along with Obama than if you continue to stand in opposition. You'll get no points for 'bi-partisanship' if the result of that doesn't provide a boost to the economy... and since pretty much everything the Democrats have done and proposed over the past couple of years has been detrimental to the economy, you will not lose support when you continue to stand in opposition. When (it isn't 'if', it is definitely 'when') the Democrats try this avenue of attack, your response needs to be something along the lines of 'as long as Obama keeps pushing the same hard left agenda the voters so clearly rejected, I am going to keep standing in opposition'. In fact, you need to announce almost immediately after the election that you are willing to work with Obama and the Democrats ONLY if they abandon the hard left agenda... and if they don't, you will oppose them with every means possible. Since Obama is on the wrong side, he is the one who needs to move, there is no imperative for you to abandon those who voted for you in the name of (the very over-rated) 'bi-partisanship'.

* Do not get bogged down in 'inside Washington' arguments over process. The Democrats didn't lose because they manipulated the process in order to push through their agenda, they lost because the voters didn't approve of the agenda being pushed through. If you give the voters what they want, they won't care about the means you used to get there.

* Having made the above point, change the way Washington keeps score. Get rid of staffers on the Joint Tax Committee who oppose using dynamic scoring of tax cuts. Change the law so that merely holding spending constant doesn't count as a 'cut'. And do this quickly.

* Remember Carville's still applicable advice: "it is still the economy, stupid". The voters who matter (see second point above) care far less about social issues than they care about unemployment, the deficit, federal spending, taxes getting raised and the ever-expanding role of government into our daily lives. Concentrate on fixing the economy and you'll be rewarded with re-election, the small number of social conservatives who get upset with you because, for example, you didn't push through repeal of Roe-v-Wade, will be dwarfed by the votes you'll gain mushy middle voters thankful their jobs are more secure and their home values aren't falling through the floor.

* Do NOT worry or try to curry favor with the Washington press corps. They do not like you and the only thing you can do to make them dislike you less is to act like a liberal Democrat. But since the MSM reaches fewer people and has far less impact than it did just a few years ago, their animosity towards you will have much less of an negative impact on your re-election chances.

* During what promises to be a major fight with the Obama Administration and the Democrats over pretty much everything of substance (and probably some issues of minor importance), it is critical that the GOP announce and follow a consistent set of well thought out talking points. Because the MSM is hostile to you and, even though weaker than they once were, still able to do damage, it is imperative that you keep the loose cannons quiet and out of sight. Designate one (or, at most, two people) person from each house who is both articulate and quick on their feet as the 'go-to' guy (or gal) for a particular issue, have them serve as the voice of the GOP during these battles and insist (through the threat of losing seniority and campaign support) that everyone else keep their mouth shut. You simply can not have someone go off and say something (that even sounds) stupid as that will cost you support points with the public.

* Along those lines, pre-emptively attack the Democrat lines of attack. You know they will accuse you of being racially insensitive (if not outright bigots), not caring about children, beholden to the rich, xenophobic, etc., etc., etc. Don't wait for them to launch the attack, start your pitches with something along the lines of 'I know my opponents will call us (fill in the blank), that is their standard and knee-jerk response when they can't criticize the substance of what we're proposing. We're not doing this because we're (fill in the blank), we're doing this because it is the right thing to do for America'.

* And do not do what the voters who voted for you don't want you to do. They don't want you to support expansions of federal spending, even a little bit of it... so if there is something that you think needs more money, take it from somewhere else. They don't like earmarks... so don't load up the budget with them. They don't want you raising taxes... on anyone.... so don't. They don't want to see you beholden to lobbyists... so don't let them write your legislation, don't hire them to fill out your staffs and don't take anything that even smells like a bribe from one.

Getting re-elected - and retaining control - is really a pretty simple thing to do. Just do the things the people who voted for you want you to do. Don't substitute your judgment for theirs. Don't become the person (Washington insider) they don't want you to be.

You think you're up to the challenge? I hope so.